When most Philadelphians think about a will, they imagine a document that spells out how they wish their assets to be divided. While this is true, wills can do so much more.
Depending on the client’s goals, assets and family situation, wills can vary greatly in complexity. At a very basic level, a will can be a “simple will”, meaning that it is a will that gives all assets outright to one or more persons. In the alternative, a will can create protective voluntary disclaimer trusts to shelter assets for a surviving spouse and dynasty trusts to shelter assets for descendants.
Besides providing for the dispersion of your property at your death, your will can accomplish many other important goals:
- Designate Guardians: Your will may designate a guardian of the person for your minor children (You do not need to nominate a guardian that lives in Philadelphia).If you have not designated such a guardian, a judge from the Philadelphia Orphans’ Court will oversee a hearing (or series of hearings) to determine in the best interest of the child who should serve as the guardian. This can be an expensive process, and the person selected might not be the person that you would have nominated.
- Your will may designate the executor, who also does not need to be a Philadelphia resident. You may also provide in your will that the executor does not need to obtain a bond.
- Your will can provide for persons who would not normally inherit from you, such as friends, charities or stepchildren. Without a will, your assets pass through intestacy and would go to family members.
- In your will you can set up protective trusts for your heirs, to shelter the gifts you are giving from their creditors, spouses and future taxes. Without these trusts your assets would pass outright to family members and be available to their creditors’ claims.
Once you realize that a will can be much more than a “simple will”, you may wish to explore the possibilities. By consulting with a Philadelphia estate-planning attorney your will can be transformed from document that is a cookie cutter form that does not reflect your true wishes, into a document that is a true representation of your wishes, providing protection and safety to your heirs.
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